January 17, 2013

The Perfume of Reality: DSH, Parfums Lalun, Juniper Ridge

Horst/Lisa Fonssagrives/Hands/NY 1941
Certain natural perfumes are what I think of as hyper-real, because they usher you straight into a one to one relationship with a specific and exceptionally beautiful scent experience that already exists in nature. I have found them to be among some of the most exciting perfume experiences I have had recently, after a first impression of simplicity.

They are perfumes and not simply blended essential oils because they take an iconic aromatic theme and distill and heighten the recognizable elements within to express the personality of the perfumer. It’s an interpretation rather than a reproduction, at the same time more of the real thing than the real thing. Perfume by its nature is a concentration of fantastically beautiful elements anyway, and these push that idea to the limit.

In what I call ‘reality perfumes’ there is a sense that a primal olfactory beauty has been plucked out of the air and magnified and sung back to you like a standard given another spin by the stylings of an artist who is expressing themselves through the classics.

Perfume has its own standard ballads like music does, and the interpretations and riffs on those are a special and satisfying subset of the artisan perfumes genre. By the classics I mean for example such themes as vanilla, rose, and the great outdoors These three perfumes delve into these themes as deeply as can be.

DSH (Dawn Spencer Hurwitz) Vanille Botanique Eau de Parfum

Notes: Top notes bergamot, lemon and palisander rosewood; middle notes are bulgarian rose, beeswax and jasmine; base notes are australian sandalwood, labdanum, peru balsam, siam benzoin, tahitian vanilla, tolu balsam and vanilla absolute.

The predominant note is the vanilla, with a gentleness infused by ambered beeswax and touches of sandalwood, jasmine and balsams. It begins with a bright moment of citrus but it’s never anything but a true vanilla experience from start to finish. The complex set of notes above smooth and brighten, and make this entirely botanical perfume an elegant adult vanilla related to the tropical orchid of its origin. Soft and luxurious, it is still mouthwatering and seductive enough to make me want to bathe in it or ingest it in some way. Wonderfully tenacious for a botanical perfume, it throws enough of an aura to enjoy on myself or someone else for an extended length of time. I like it for the neck area especially before wrapping up in a soft scarf to go out in chilly weather. It scents the scarf with fragrance and exhales fully upon unwrapping.

Please see Indiescents for a full size, and the Dawn Spencer Hurwitz site for smaller sizes and in product varieties such as body oil and creams (that seem especially delicious).

Qajar Rose Eau de Parfum by Parfums Lalun, newly released by architect turned perfumer Maggie Mahboubian, is also a fully natural handmade perfume. It retains the refreshing quality of inhaling fresh open roses in the garden still attached to the earth through the stems and intimations of the fruit that will develop after the flower is spent.

The perfumer grew up in the perfume culture of the Middle East where the native rose continues to imbue daily life. The concept is that the rose fragrance is part of a tableau of scents wafting over a garden wall at dusk.

This is a delicious and sophisticated mix of several rose types, whose complex aspects are buoyed up and extended by all the other notes. The notes all have something of rose within themselves, and those aspects then lend themselves to support the theme. The rose personality moves through all the notes and the result is a gentle expression of depth that clings to the skin and seems to refresh itself over time. There is both the dignity of elegance and the hypnotic quality of meditative calm; skillfully heightened facets of the classic rose experience. The longevity is exceptionally good for a fully natural perfume.

Notes/Top: Rose Otto Iran, Fragonia, Roman Chamomile, Tagette, Pomegranate, Galbanum, Ethyl decadionate nat. Heart: Rose Otto Turkey, Rose Otto Russia, Rose Geranium sur fleurs, Davana, Saffron, Coffee, Strawberry furanone nat., Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol nat.  Base: Angelica Seed, Buddhawood, Oudh Laos, Ambergris tincture, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Ambrette, Cocoa, Katrafay, Patchouli, Vanilla.  Please see the Parfums Lalun site for more shopping and sampling details.

Juniper Ridge makes experiential wild-crafted fragrant products, Their Wild Plum Campground Backpacker’s Cologne, as all their other fragrances and products, was made from harvested wild plants gathered from the mountain ridges that stretch from California to Washington State, and distilled on the spot. In hikes of many miles the perfumers bring pre-industrial distilling equipment along with them and sustainably harvest fragrant wild materials from the forest litter and also from branches and other plant materials that have been thinned by the Forest Service. Turning it all into fragrance saves a powerful and beautiful part of these wild materials from being simply wastefully burnt away.

The Wild Plum Campground Backpacker’s Cologne smells like you have been soaking yourself in a bath of strong tea infused with the sap of evergreens dissolved in cedar water, bark, mulch and earth. Wild Plum Campground was created in the Yuba River region. It has a strong undertow of raw wildness and darkness. There’s also a lively sense of evergreen and a clear hit of terpenes but also a mysterious and powerful hit of thick tree pitch and sap that holds a hint of natural sugar.  These fragrances are strong enough to cling onto the skin clothing and hair tenaciously and stimulate your own inhalations with the experience of the great outdoors. This would have to be the closest you could get to the fragrance experience of hiking the northern Sierra Mountains in full summer without doing it yourself. Because they distill the materials and combine them it is a much intensified version of a wild fragrance experience.  The first impression would be that this is a masculine fragrance, but since this is the perfume of the wild open spaces, I believe there can be no gender assigned to it.

I also have been using the wild-crafted Siskiyou Trail Crew Soap, (a northern Washington mountain range). This liquid soap brings the mountain air into my Brooklyn shower.

I originally stumbled on this line through my search for a winter room/ambience fragrance. The Cascade Glacier room spray is, as they say, an aromatic snapshot of the wild place itself. It’s a refreshing, almost marine evergreen that incorporates the high meadow grasses and spreads them out into your domestic interior. The Steep Ravine Room Spray was made in the Redwood Trail of Mt. Tamalpais. One of the most enjoyable aspects of these products is the intense impression of freshness, and the experiential connection to the giant pine trees and winds among the mountains of California and the Pacific Northwest.

The ingredients are described as: organic sugar cane alcohol; 100% natural fragrance: tree pitch, plant sap/juice, steam-distilled essential oils. Please see the Juniper Ridge site for more information.

Music to listen to perfume by:

Winterpills – A Benediction (for Vanille Bontanique)

Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant (for Qjar Rose)

Explosions in the Sky – Inside it All Feels the Same (Wild Plum Campground Backpacker’s Cologne)

Copyright 2012 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.  The images above are not mine and their rights are reserved to their owners.  The above perfumes were obtained by both purchase and sent to me by the perfumers.  These is an independent site and I am not compensated by the perfumers.


Maggie Mahboubian said...

While I always thought Jean Baudrillard's critique of contemporary culture as hyperreal had a negative connotation (i.e. that we are living simulated lives instead of real ones), you, dear Lucy, turned this theory on its head by showing how YOUR interpretation can bring to life the turbid molecules that reside inside a bottle. Without your thoughtful words the landscapes of our perfumes would remain lifeless. I've only experienced one of Dawn Spenser Hurwitz' perfumes (a brilliant and gorgeous botanical musk) and regret having missed the Juniper Ridge distillation event in downtown LA last December. But your writing has provided me with a gorgeous and layered alternative to having experienced the "real" thing. Thank you for including me in this discourse and for your eloquent descriptions of Qajar Rose.

Lucy said...

Dear Maggie, I was not thinking of Baudrillard but thank you for raising that body of work on the idea of the hyper real. For me the references within and physical realities of the perfumes themselves, being a part of the reality as well as referencing it, was more like the way a fluent musician uses ballad standards to express their own personality and add a personal take to an iconic theme. The way great singers each deliver a classic song differently, tho in perfume not as an interpretation alone since the medium allows the use of the classic materials to express themselves. Any case, these perfumes are very much immersion into a heightened reality but also one that everyone can recognize and find familiar at the same time; that familiarity is a great part of their beauty.